Among the many beneficial changes stemming from the cloud delivery model is the ability for development teams to build and run scalable applications using only cloud infrastructure. This so-called cloud native computing includes containers, single-purpose serverless functions, and microservices for resilient and highly flexible apps.
One recent survey found that 97% of IT decision-makers and 96% of developers planned to expand the use of cloud native applications over the coming 12 months. The shift from on-premise to cloud-native development is in full force, and it’s not surprising given what’s possible with cloud computing.
The many benefits of cloud-native justify the hype. However, it’s important not to overlook security concerns in this type of application deployment. Cloud-native breaches can occur when errors creep into how organizations configure and use cloud infrastructure. Threat actors can exploit such errors and eventually exfiltrate sensitive data from IaaS environments.
Identity management provides one possible way to help secure cloud native resources. Identity management combines process, policy, and technology to define the scope of permissions granted to resources in an effort to keep systems and data secure. In this blog post, you’ll get some insight into how identity management helps to improve security for cloud native applications.
Is cloud native computing secure?
Product owners, developers, and DevOps engineers all need to recognize from the outset that every component and layer of a cloud native application’s architecture needs securing. Today’s threat actors are sophisticated and technical enough to exploit even the smallest error or security loophole in a system.
The environmental complexity and dynamism of cloud native apps pose new security challenges compared to on-premise development, where applications often run on virtual machines in the confines of an enterprise data center. Across a cloud native development pipeline, there are several categories of security risk, including:
- Insecure cloud or container configuration issues, such as containers running as root or open cloud buckets
- Injection flaws in cloud services, such as not validating inputs
- Weak authentication and authorization, for example, overly permissive cloud roles
- Software supply chain flaws, such as developers using untrusted container images or vulnerable open source libraries/frameworks
- A lack of runtime monitoring and logging for container processes, resource consumption, or orchestration
The anytime, anywhere access inherent to cloud computing makes it hard to enforce access rules based on IP addresses. A multitude of different containers running inhibits end-to-end visibility and monitoring. Cloud native computing isn’t inherently lacking in security, but the relative novelty of these ecosystems along with increased infrastructural complexity leads to uncertainty and multiple security challenges.
Identity Management can secure cloud native resources
The power of identity and access management as an important cybersecurity technology is reflected by a projected annual growth rate of 14.5 % from 2021-2028. As previously alluded to, identity management has excellent potential to improve cloud native security. The particular category of security risks addressed by identity management solutions is weak authentication and authorization.
A slew of identity and access management (IAM) solutions is available from all major cloud providers within their own cloud services. These IAM solutions provide sophisticated controls for setting the scope of roles and permissions within your cloud infrastructure.
Since users can access cloud resources over the internet, it’s imperative to be certain about their identity through effective authentication. In the ecosystem that comprises cloud native apps, identity management must extend beyond users to include the very resources that the operation of these apps depends on.
In the IAM services provided by cloud vendors, you can set roles for computing instances, containers, and functions, defining what those resources can or can’t do. To prevent many kinds of application attacks, it’s important to exercise as much control and diligence when defining these roles as you (hopefully) would for regular users.
Cloud native identity management aims to restrict the scope of permissions in each process and resource to the bare minimum needed for it to run. Effective identity management builds in the principle of least privileges to the design of your cloud native apps and reduces the attack surface for malicious actors.